10 Horror Movie Villains You Didn't Know Were Based On Real-Life Monsters

Do you like scary movies? You're in one.

Hannibal Lecter
Orion Pictures

Truly phenomenal horror movies take viewers on a rollercoaster of emotions. We scream at jump scares, hold our breaths along with the protagonists as they attempt to hide from the villain, and sigh with relief that it’s all over when the credits roll. However, when it comes to horror films, sometimes it's art that imitates life, rather than the other way around—and it’s absolutely terrifying. Much like a muse is to an artist, real-life monsters have served as inspiration to some of the most iconic movie villains.

Pennywise of It fame doesn’t hold a candle to John Wayne Gacy, who raped, tortured, and killed at least 33 young men, and sometimes volunteered to dress as “Pogo the Clown” at various charity events. Ravenous’ cannibal Colqhoun had nothing on Alfred Packer, the Colorado Cannibal, who ate five fellow goldminers in 1873. Real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren are responsible for the entire Conjuring Universe and 17 films in the Amityville Horror series.

Double-lock the doors and find your safety blanket. You’re about to meet the proof that sometimes real life is so much scarier than fiction.

10. Primeval's Gustave

Hannibal Lecter
Buena Vista Pictures

In Burundi, a British forensic anthropologist examines a mass grave and comes to the conclusion all were killed in an identical - and in an unfathomable manner just as an unseen creature drags her into the river. Back in NYC, journalist Tim Manfrey is sent to Africa to investigate Gustave, a gigantic crocodile responsible for killing hundreds of people. Risking life and limb, Tim and his small news crew brave the croc and a warlord, unsubtly named “Little Gustave.” A few human meals later, the heroes face down both Gustaves in the crocodile’s lair.

With enough film credits to make a B list actor jealous, Gustave the giant crocodile has inspired - and even starred in - a number of shows and movies, including the film Primeval, which was originally titled “Gustave."

Over 60 years old and more than 6 meters long, the large Nile crocodile in truly at the top of the food chain. Why? He is a notorious man-eater and it’s speculated he’s killed hundreds of people along the banks of the Ruzizi River. As in he. Eats. People. Local folklore claims more than 300 people have fallen prey to the 910 kg serial killer.

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Hi! I'm Hannah, and I am a copywriter based in Dallas, Texas. I like to throw around ideas, share amazing web finds, and tell the occasional story or two.